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New Perspectives During the COVID-19 Pandemic | Part 2

Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates (like DEHP) are "everywhere chemicals". BPA is often used to make hard polycarbonate bottles and the epoxy resin lining of food and beverage cans while DEHP is used to soften plastic, including some plastic food wrap. They are found in so many products (as reviewed in my article last week) and according to a new study, high levels of BPA in the body are associated with a 49% increased risk of death within 10 years. This week I want to go over what YOU and your family can do to decrease exposure to BPA and its many forms.

 

The Rise of the Bisphenol Family

The problem we face with BPA has been a major environmental issue since before the 1960s with the problem only continuing to rise exponentially. While “BPA-free” is seen on many plastic bottles and containers today, environmental and health safety experts agree that the chemicals that have replaced them are just as bad. Because these non-BPA chemicals are still in the same "bisphenol family", they cause the same chemical reaction on the body. And there are at least 40 BPA replacements which we are currently aware of. 

Unfortunately for us, the consumers, science must repeat studies on each of those 40 BPA replacements to establish their health effects, even though the body is likely to respond in a similar manner to each as they are in the same bisphenol family. Since there's always a huge lag between identifying the problem and seeing the outcome, people continue to be exposed to these toxic chemicals within their daily lives.  

We have to ask ourselves, “how many more times do we have to do something before we start regulating chemicals by class?" While our regulatory agents fail us, there IS a lot we can do.

 

What You Can Do

Food packaging is the biggest source of exposure to the hormone disrupting chemicals BPA and bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) in children and adults. If you avoid canned food consumption, you avoid the major source of bisphenol exposure. The alternative to canned fruits and vegetables is seasonal and fresh produce that you can then freeze and consume at a later date. Note, I appreciate there are some accessibility issues caused by the pandemic, so if you must buy frozen fruits/veggies, that is fine. And, of course, the existence of food deserts for certain economically disadvantaged groups presents the same challenge. (While out of the scope of this conversation, it is something I believe needs to be addressed at the local, state, and federal levels.)

Other ways to protect you and your family from being exposed to BPA and its sisters includes:

  1. Avoiding microwaving foods in plastic containers
  2. Choose glass or stainless steel, NOT PLASTIC when buy and store foods
  3. Buy fresh food always 
  4. Use frozen foods only if you are in a pinch (the plastic bags on frozen foods are still a minor concern, but not anywhere as much as canned goods). Freezing stops the spread of plastics into food. The caveat here is that if you buy frozen foods in plastic, do NOT microwave them.
  5. Don't use harsh detergents
  6. Try put plastic containers in the dishwasher
  7. Opt for email or text receipts and skip out on thermal paper receipts

By trying your best to eliminate BPA-like products from your lifestyle, you can lower the amount of BPA in your bloodstream within even a few days. 

 

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Whole Foods

According to new research published in Environmental Health Perspectives, conducted by Silent Spring Institute and Breast Cancer Fund, it shows that a fresh food plant-based diet significantly reduces levels of BPA and phthalates after just three days.

The research team assessed BPA and DEHP levels in adults and children from five families by testing their urine before, during, and after a three-day fresh whole foods plant-based diet. (Please note, urinary excretion is the most common way our bodies get rid of these chemicals). After the three day diet, participants continued to eat organic meals with no canned food and minimal plastic packaging of foods and beverages. They also shifted from storing food in plastic containers as historically done and switched to  glass and stainless steel containers.

While families were consuming the fresh food plant based meal plan, average levels of BPA in urine decreased by over 60% and DEHP metabolites (i.e. the breakdown products of phthalates) dropped by over 50%. Reductions were even more pronounced for those with the highest exposures of these toxins historically with BPA levels decreasing by over 70% and over 90% for DEHP. When individuals went back to their conventional standard American diets, these levels quickly returned back to pre-intervention levels. 

Takeaway:  The research team provides compelling evidence that removing canned food, plastic food and beverage packaging, animal protein and refined foods wrapped in plastic along with microwaving in plastic containers dramatically reduces exposure to BPA, DEHP, and other phthalates in adults and children. 

The reason why: because any level of exposure to these phthalates causes significant damage to the brain, nervous system and reproductive organs along with causing detrimental hormonal imbalances. In fact, 3 of the 5 phthalates measured, including DEHP, are now banned under Europe’s REACH regulation because they cause reproductive toxicity.

Silent Spring Institute measured BPA and DEHP in household air and dust in 170 homes in its ongoing Household Exposure Study, and DEHP was detected in 100% of homes tested. This finding should be the wake-up call to families to begin the process of removing the aforementioned items from their homes. Furthermore, industry and government must enact big-picture solutions that eliminate harmful chemicals from food packaging and protect public health. Until then, it’s up to us.

While the research unfolds and the case against BPA and phthalates grows stronger, there are several precautionary steps individuals can take to reduce their exposures to BPA and DEHP, including avoiding canned food and plastic packaging, cooking more plant-based fresh whole food meals at home, and using glass and stainless steel containers to store food.

 

Dr. Bhandari and the Advanced Health Team Are Here to Support Your Health.

Our expert team of integrative holistic functional medicine practitioners work with patients in addressing the root cause of any health concern. By taking the best in evidence based Eastern and Western medicine, we are able to optimize how the body functions and cure patients of their long-standing ailments. To learn more and book an appointment, contact Advanced Health or call 1-415-506-9393.




References

Rudel, R.A, J.M. Gray, C.L. Engel, T.W. Rawsthorne, R.E. Dodson, J.M. Ackerman, J. Rizzo, J.L. Nudelman, J.G. Brody. 2011. Food packaging and bisphenol A and bis(2-ethyhexyl) phthalate exposure: Findings from a dietary intervention. Environmental Health Perspectives, 119:914-920. doi:10.1289/ehp.1003170

Rudel, R.A, J.M. Ackerman, R.E. Dodson. 2011. Dietary Intervention and DEHP Reduction: Rudel et al. Respond. Environmental Health Perspectives, 119(9):a380-a381. doi:10.1289/ehp.1103852R

Author
Payal Bhandari M.D. Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. is one of U.S.'s top leading integrative functional medical physicians and the founder of San Francisco' top ranked medical center, SF Advanced Health. Her well-experienced holistic healthcare team collaborates together to deliver whole-person personalized care and combines the best in Western and Eastern medicine. By being an expert of cell function, Dr. Bhandari defines the root cause of illness and is able to subside any disease within weeks to months. She specializes in cancer prevention and reversal, digestive & autoimmune disorders. Dr. Bhandari received her Bachelor of Arts degree in biology in 1997 and Doctor of Medicine degree in 2001 from West Virginia University. She the completed her Family Medicine residency in 2004 from the University of Massachusetts and joined a family medicine practice in 2005 which was eventually nationally recognized as San Francisco’s 1st patient-centered medical home. To learn more, go to www.sfadvancedhealth.com.

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